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November 9, 2012

Do you like this?

One of the trends in United Methodism these days is to talk extensively about "the mission field."

It's a buzz word. It's a concept.

The question is asked: "In every place where we do ministry, what does the mission field look like?"

It's a very very good question, and I'm glad we're asking it. Demographics, we are learning, matter to church growth. In fact, seen from one perspective, demographics are destiny when it comes to church growth.

So it is that many of us United Methodist pastors/congregations are now asked:

"Who are the people your church is trying to reach?"

"Who are the people who would miss you if you were not around?"

"What demographic trends are changing in your neighborhoods?"

We've taken to analyzing demographic data, as we can get our hands on it, to see just how well (or not well) we are "working our mission field."

All this is good. But it is not the only question.

Because, while we absolutely should be analyzing the demographic data on the micro-level of neighborhoods, we also need to analyze it on the macro-level of our nation too.

Tuesday night, we got deeply important new data. We got the results of this year's presidential election. We got new data that can help us answer the macro-question:

What Does the "Mission Field" of the United States look like?

If the United Methodist Church is going to survive in the future, it's deeply important that we ask and answer this question, and that we seek the best data to help us with this.

This will, of necessity and whether we like it or not, involve asking political questions:

What are the politics of the American people?

What do they care about?

What issues are becoming more important?

What issues are becoming less important?

So, having set this out for us, let me jump right to the punchline and work my way back to the end....

The United States is a "center/left" nation.

But the United Methodist Church is, increasingly, a "center/right" denomination.

That should be of deep concern to all of us. We are, increasingly, out-of-step, with where the nation is, and with where the nation is going. We are "big ship" that takes a long time to turn, especially on social issues. We are behind. We should expect to fall farther behind in these next four years. Not because I am cynical about us, but because the demographic data tells us this.

How do I come to this conclusion?

I do it by first by analyzing the highest, top-level demographic data available to us: the Presidential Popular Vote.(1)

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November 9, 2012

Comments (6)

Comment Feed

What is the surprise? Clery have not watched their congregations for years.

Being a child of the 60s and a UMC member my whole life I have found the stand of clergy to be out of touch with congregations for years. The liberal ideas of clergy have not been in sync with members since the early 60s. The problem is that clergy has felt that they spoke for their members rather than: 1. Listening to what the membership is saying.
2. Teaching that their ideas have merit and reason that will grow individuals and the church.
3. Changing ideas and concepts through discourse and education as well as EXAMPLE.

I feel strongly enough about the hypocracy being exhibited in the churches and seminary that I decided to hassle the pastors rather than be one. My choice was to stay active in my church and try to get change by example and effort. Words without action are hollow.

GH Bush more than 1 years ago

Center-Right and Dying

Yes, at G.C. the UMC voted her bigotry, her unscholarly ready of scripture, her failure/refusal to listen to Holy Spirit !!!! But to the extent that my beloved Methodist Episcopal now UMC clings to the unscholarly readings of a fearful majority a few decades ago we are a fearful/right-leaning/dying institution. The young who see the LGBT relatives/class-mates/neighbors/friends as a beloved minority of humanity, a beloved minority of God's sons and daughters, reject the bigotry of current church policy as totally un-christlike. Many middle aged and elderly members of the UMC maintain membership only because although they themselves or their children or other relatives are members of the LGBT commu
nity, they want a church to hold their funerals.
When American "Evangelicals" stop sending the "Kill the Gays" 'evangelists' to Africa, those people, too, will hear Holy Spirit calling them to understand the marvelous inclusiveness of Jesus the Christ, the Master Teacher, The Son of God--Creator who loves diversity and made made each of us as we are--hetero-
sexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, transgender.
The United States is a secular nation with freedom of religion (or no religion).
I belief that our founders and the leaders during the Enlightenment were Left or Center-Left. The 2012 elections shows the USA to be Center-Left or Left of
Center. Some people with lots of money may be Hard Right, or so far Right that they are off the scale, but People are more inclusive, or, Center-Left.

Elsie Gauley Vega more than 1 years ago

What the Election Tells Us



Eric, I have been also musing about what our denomination can learn from the recent election. I applaud your efforts here.

I would begin with the assumption that the UMC is the Republican Party at prayer. I would compare the demographics of the Republican Convention with that of General Conference. I would hold the African contingent aside like an outlier poll to be looked at separately.

So who made up the delegates to the GOP Convention? Mostly the white, the elderly, and men. Who make up the delegates to General Conference? It has the same demographic. What about the women? The GOP candidate got the majority of white women’s vote as well as white men. After all, said one commentator, they're married to each other. The GOP Convention did not reflect diversity, except on stage, which carefully placed minorities there.
It is no wonder that the 2012 election results were as they were. Here's the breakdown:
Among women: +11 Obama, 55-44.
Among men: +7 Romney, 52-45.
Among Latinos: +44 Obama, 71-27.
Among Asian-Americans: +47 Obama, 73-26.
Among whites: +20 Romney, 59-39.
Among 18-24 year-olds: +24 Obama, 60-36.
Among 25-29 year-olds: +22 Obama, 60-38.
Among 30-39 year-olds: +13 Obama, 55-42.
Among 40-49 year-olds: +2 Romney, 50-48.
Among 50-64 year-olds: +5 Romney, 52-47.
Among 65 and older: +12 Romney, 56-44.

88% of Romney voters were white; 43% of Obama voters were minorities. Most of Romney's support came from the elderly; most of Obama's from the young.
If the General Conference looked like the GOP Convention, the UMC congregations look like the Romney voters.
As the GOP has the Tea Party, so the UMC has its conservative, evangelical, heavily southern wing.

So if the GOP is out of step with the U S, so is the UMC. Now, if you bring in the African delegates and churches, these cannot substitute for the UMC's increasingly irrelevance to the U S demographics. A so-called 'global church' cannot hide that growing irrelevance in reaching minorities and the young.

What it does is to get our denomination drawn into the impossible situation that the Episcopal Church (and Canadian and N Z, and British Anglicans) is in. The majority third world membership in the Anglican Communion has tried to exclude the North American Anglicans from their denominational structures.

For an alternative future for United Methodism the Western Jurisdiction is far from a perfect model. But its inclusiveness, ethnic and same gender support, is the wave of the future. We, in effect, are saying that the UMC, like the GOP needs to change to avoid becoming irrelevant. The negative denominational stance toward Gays and Lesbians is simply one indication of its anachronistic mindset. Significantly this would put us closer to a Jesus who included those whom the religion of his time rejected.

H. A. 'Bud' Tillinghast more than 1 years ago

Demographics

This article gives good MACRO-dynamics, but most of us live at the level of MICRO-dynamics. It is well and good to ask to whom our churches see as their mission. However, to ask that question is to come up with an answer that includes those to whom we will NOT reach out. Often they are the poor (who cannot afford to give anything to maintain a local church), the lower-working class (who don't dress like us, act like us, speak like us, and think like us), those who are gay/lesbian, those who are of a different ethnicity than us, those who are young unless they are already married and have a family of kids, and those whom we have not known for a long time.

Most of our churches go their start, post-WWII, in new neighborhoods where everyone moved in at the same time. We all knew each other thru our kids, thru PTA's, thru shopping at the same market. It was easy for folks we knew and who were like us to join together in a church. But as people moved, and a second, or third, or sixth generation of new folks moved into the houses that had been vacated by the first generation of occupants in those houses, it was all too easy to say "I don't know those people." Often folks in our churches will be apologetic when they say that, for they know it is the truth and that this is not what we expect we we talk about being evangelistic.

The day is long gone when we can say "Y'all come" and we can fill a new church that way. Nor do our churches get peopled solely from our own neighborhoods. How do we reach out to people who don't live near us, who aren't necessarily like us, who have money to give to help support the church (yes, this often is a criterion), are not obviously mentally ill, etc.?

Those are questions that need to be addressed if we are to use demographics on a MICRO level to determine those to whom we will endeavor to reach out.

Tom Griffith more than 1 years ago

Umc acceptance of LGBT

May be saying that all do not need be homosexuals. We just need to accept homosexuals are God's children who should be included and respected.

Tom Potenza more than 1 years ago

Learnings from the election for The UMC

Learnings...
1. United Methodists just as Americans, represent a magnificent rainbow of diversity. We "talk the talk" but do not "walk the walk".

2. Authentic diversity is more than cosmetic. Diversity of history, heritage,
culture, spirituality, justice understandings, etc. if affirmed, makes for a vibrant nation and United Methodist Church.

3. "New occasions, teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth".
The USA is beginning to understand these words of Newman, will the UMC
understand them as well?

4. God's future is never embraced, if we attempt to repeat and replicate the past. An "Awesome God" is not a God who expects "the same old, same old." The purpose of using rear view mirrors is to back up successfully. The slogan "Forward" whether of not we voted for the candidate who used this as his theme, is a slogan The UMC would do
well to incorporate.

5. "Truth crushed to earth will rise again" (MLK). We saw that in the elections, we must see more of that in United Methodism. Any effort to
re-introduce in 2012 dress, a policy and pracitice of repression that a people risked life and limb to combat in the past, proved to be a "loser".
In retrospect some of those who initiated this effort now realize how impractical and contradictory to their "better angels" this effort proved to be.

6. Those who have been "kept outside" for a host of reasons, cannot help but transform the "inside" once they take their places within the institutions that once kept them out. Fear of that taking place, says much
more about those who are afraid, than it does of those who are now "in".

7. Young people when they are respected, embraced and listened to, can help those of us who are old, to begin to see that it is our fear and not our
faith that shapes our decision-making.

8. A political party, a nation, nor The United Methodist Church can prosper if its major motif, methodology and program is to make a person or some persons, "fail". The negative energy used to do that, can be fatal.

9. Fearing change, when in fact we all have changed and are changing, reflects an insecurity unworthy of the Gifts God has given each of us.

10. Now that the election is over (just as the 2012 General Conference is no more), we can acknowledge our mistakes, our unwillingness to hear, see and respond to the obvious. Then we can begin to "blend" the best that is ours, with the "best" of those with whom we disagreed.

11. The nation and The UMC "fly" more effectively with a functioning right wing and left wing. Whenever those of the left or right are making fools of
themselves, we are challenged to encourage them to change

The coincidence of USA presidential elections taking place in General Conference years, may be more than coincidence. This year we have much to learn from the presidential election as United Methodists. What we learn from Politics 2012, may equip us to be a more faithful and helpful witness to the nation and the world, in 2016

Gil Caldwell more than 1 years ago

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